School officials and teachers met with state legislators at Kilauea School yesterday requesting funds to build a new cafeteria to accommodate more students and to serve as an emergency shelter during natural disasters.
Carrying signs, gaggles of students also asked legislators to allocate sufficient funds to fight the war on drug use on the North Shore, including the spreading use of crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice.
Nearly 30 members of the state House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee visited the North Shore school to check out the condition of the cafeteria.
The legislators arrived on Kaua‘i on Monday for a three-day visit of Kaua‘i sites.
The Senate committee and House committee determine the funding for projects statewide, and were led on tours by state Rep. Bertha C. Kawakami, D-West Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau and vice chair of the House Finance Committee; state House Rep. Mina Morita, D-North Shore and state Rep. Ezra Kanoho, D-East and South Kaua‘i.
Sen. Gary Hooser also attended the gathering at the Kilauea School cafeteria Tuesday.
Fred Rose, the school’s principal, said the current cafeteria is too small and that preparation area for cooks is too small.
Eating conditions are so crowded that students must eat in shifts. “There is not enough room so that the entire student body can eat at the same time,” lamented Lani Gomes, a cafeteria worker.
The school boasts 320 students and 22 faculty members, some of whom eat in the cafeteria, Rose said.
A state Department of Education master plan calls for the conversion of the existing cafeteria into office space, Rose said. The converted structure could house offices for the principal, school counselors and school staff, Rose said. The master plan also calls for more parking for the new cafeteria, Rose said.
A new cafeteria also is needed because the existing cafeteria encroaches on private property.
“When they built the cafeteria, I don’t know if they were as stringent on the boundary lines,” Rose said. “The cafeteria has to be moved because the neighbor wants to build an ohana unit.”
Rose also said a new cafeteria is needed to accommodate large school assemblies, and could serve as an emergency shelter for natural disasters.
Bill Troutman, a Kilauea resident, echoed many of the concerns Rose raised.
Troutman said he has worked on getting a new cafeteria constructed since his daughter was attending kindergarten classes at Kilauea School. That was about ten years ago, and now his daughter attends Kapa‘a High School.
Even though his daughter no longer attends the elementary school, Troutman said he has remained involved with the project because he wants to see a structure that will benefit the school and the community.
“When Mina (Morita) and (Sen. Gary) Hooser see me, the first thing they think about is the cafeteria,” Troutman said.
Troutman said the existing cafeteria is too small to accommodate community events and meetings, and a new cafeteria will make a major difference.
“There was a PTSA meeting, and they were hanging out the window,” Troutman said. “It was horrible.”
The school has registered high DOE inspection ratings for classrooms because of the number of portable classrooms, Troutman said.
But the ratings have plummeted when they come to the cafeteria, library and administrative offices, hence the need for a new cafeteria, Troutman said.
Morita said the North Shore, including Kilauea is growing by leaps and bounds, and that a new cafeteria is needed to handle the influx of new students.
But whether funding is available for a new cafeteria is up in the air, because other projects statewide may have a higher priority, according to Republican House Rep. Kika G. Bukoski, District 12, from Maui.
Troutman estimated the entire project would cost about $1.2 million.
Morita said the Legislature appropriated $250,000 for the planning and design for the new cafeteria. But Gov. Lingle won’t release the funds because “she called this legislative pork,” Morita said.
Lingle also felt the Legislature should have sought funding for the entire project, Morita said.
“This isn’t pork money,” Morita said, adding that getting $250,000 for the design and planning of the cafeteria was a good start and that it could spur allocation of the construction funds one day.
The thinking of the Legislature was that “hey, if we get the planning and design money down, we are half way there to putting it on track,” Morita said.
But Morita said she will lobby her legislative peers to get the project approved, fully.
“Obviously, this is a project that has been overlooked by the DOE, the board of education, and as a legislator, it is my duty to bring it to their attention,” Morita said.
State Rep. Bukoski said that politics was not the reason the $250,000 was not being released. “I believe it is a priority issue,” Bukoski said. “It is still on the plate, and we will just work with the governor to release it.”
Bukoski said he wants to have projects in place that will provide children with the best education possible.
He said he is concerned about Kaua‘i-related projects because he was raised for a time on Kaua‘i and because many family members are from Koloa.
His father, Sam “Jumbo” Bukoski, is a retired Kaua‘i police officer, and his uncle, Frank Bukoski, is a retire Kaua‘i police lieutenant.
As the legislators left Kilauea school, they were greeted by students who carried signs denouncing the use of ice and reiterating the need for a new cafeteria.
Carrying signs were Christina Gilbert, Erika Steiner, Kori Kimura, Kandice Navarro, Breanna Concepcion-Brown, Vanessa Martinez and Robby Farias, all sixth-graders at the school.
Today, Kanoho plans to lead legislators on a tour of the new Kaua‘i Civil Defense Agency offices and the Kaua‘i Police Department offices off Kapule Highway. The legislators also plan to visit the new state judiciary building, now under consecution off Kapule Highway.
TGI staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681, Ext. 225 or mailto:email@example.com.